American Family Insurance strongly encourages safe driving practices, and we want to lead by example. This spring, we’ve instituted a cell phone usage policy that basically states employees may not use a cell phone or other mobile device to perform work when operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free devices are not encouraged but allowed if for essential company business if not in violation of local laws.
I helped develop that policy after seeing compelling research that provides strong proof that the use of cell phones while driving is a significant distraction to drivers.
To be honest, I thought the few seconds it takes to text, scan a message or have a conversation on a cell phone while driving was relatively harmless. After all, I’m an experienced driver. I was capable of multitasking. I felt I was doing pretty well by limiting where and when I used my cell phone while driving.
After I read the National Safety Council (NSA) research on the hazards of a distracted brain, that all changed.
These were the top three shockers from the report:
Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain switches between one task and another. Brains can do this very rapidly which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time.
The brain not only juggles tasks, it juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two complex tasks at the same time such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus.
Reaction-time switching costs. Research studying the impact of talking on cell phones while driving has identified tangible and measurable slowed reaction times to potential hazards.
Since then, I’ve become very aware of others driving while using cell phones. They’re the ones whose speed is constantly changing, and they sometimes swerve like they’re under the influence. I can pick out these drivers about 90 percent of the time.
Those are just the talkers. People texting and driving are even scarier! All of these drivers increase the possibility of causing a severe injury to themselves and others and I don’t want to be one of them.
If this research was not enough to convince me to change my habits, the new 16-year-old driver in my household is. Setting a good example by staying off my phone is important.
So what can we do besides put policies in place? Be aware of the risk to yourself and others when you’re distracted. Put your phone on silent when driving, use a hands-free device or, if possible, just pull over off the road. If you’re really passionate, you can contact your elected officials and push them to put laws in place to ban texting and talking while driving.
I’ll be the first to admit this behavior can be hard to change. But it’s safe to say this change is a “good call.”
April is distracted driving awareness month. Join me and commit to safer driving habits - today and every day.
I’ve heard the saying a million times. “It’s not the house that makes the home. It’s the love and family inside.”
I truly believe it and live by this philosophy every day. But I’d be fooling myself if I said I didn’t like to dream of awesome things, like a pool for the family, or a bigger closet for my home.
Last year I discovered a girls’ dream: A digital, magazine-like website called Pinterest. It’s full of endless home ideas. Just like 25 million others who use it, Pinterest is a one-stop shop for discovering and organizing everything I love, and dream about.
I quickly had a dream home created virtually on my own Pinterest page. From pets to recipes, hairstyles to inspirational quotes, Pinterest is a popular place for dreamers to organize everything their hearts desire. Never has it been so easy to browse and collect photos of our dream dinners, family photos or even gardening ideas – all in one place.
These Pinterest dreams inspired American Family Insurance to partner with Better Homes and Gardens for a Dream Room Makeover sweepstakes. What better place to gather decorating and remodeling images for your very own makeover!
Whether it’s a single-family home, apartment or condo, many Pinterest users already create and pin their dream room ideas on boards dedicated to their homes. Asking them to pin images from Better Homes and Gardens for a chance to win $5,000 is a win-win scenario. They get beautiful ideas for their dream rooms, and American Family provides a chance to make those ideas come to life.
As community manager for American Family’s Pinterest page, I try to imagine what people living out their dreams in a dream home may want from an insurance company. Quite simply, we want to make sure their dreams are protected. So, we share timely safety tips for homeowners and renters on Pinterest.
For example, we’ve pinned information on protecting your home from spring flooding. Take it from someone who lived in a home damaged by water, these tips are worth pinning. As part of our Pinterest sweepstakes, sharing and pinning American Family’s home-related safety tips can earn you two additional entries. (Check out the official rules for details.)
Every day, Pinterest brings to life ideas to inspire my dreams. I love to think about what I would do in my home by browsing through these beautiful images. I also look for practical tips to make my home safe and secure, whether it’s a dream home I hope to have some day, or the one I’m living in today.
So, if you love to dream and have an ultimate dream home in mind, click here to pin your Dream Room Makeover on your Pinterest board. It could win you $5,000 toward making those dreams a reality.
I recently attended the first-ever indoor hailstorm. That’s right – an indoor hailstorm! Why? Every year, hail causes billions of dollars in damage to property and crops. An indoor storm like this can be studied in detail to find ways to make hail-resistant structures and reduce the destruction from hailstorms.
It was an amazing experience. Not only were insurance industry representatives like me there, but national media including “The Today Show,” (which broadcast it live). “The Weather Channel,” “Discovery Channel” and “This Old House” were there as well.
This storm was a test created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS) to learn how different building materials withstand a hailstorm’s damage. For five minutes and some 9,000 hailstones, the “storm” pelted a house, a car, outdoor furniture and nearby toys. The only thing missing was a thunderstorm.
To deliver the hailstones with the same intensity as a real storm, IBHS engineers designed a series of multi-barreled hail cannons mounted 60 feet above the research center’s test chamber. When the storm started, the cannons were firing hailstones at the rate of 1,800 per minute at speeds up to 76 mph!
The test structure had different building materials to compare performance. The roof featured asphalt shingles, impact-resistant architectural shingles, metal roofing and metal-over-shingles. Standard vinyl siding and fiber-cement siding were used, as well as vinyl and aluminum windows and aluminum gutters and downspouts. During the demonstration, the entire structure was pelted evenly with hailstones.
IBHS can now study the damage to the different materials. The windshield on the car for example, was shattered, and the test home received significant damage. We also learned while metal roofing does a great job keeping water out and will typically outlast traditional shingles, it shows every little ding from the hail.
American Family supports the work of IBHS because of our commitment to loss prevention. More research is needed to create building materials and techniques that can better withstand damage from storms. Our goal is to make homes safer by building them stronger, not cheaper.
Through our membership with IBHS, American Family helps fund research addressing the impact of hail and other natural disasters, and can lead to the establishment of better building standards. The end result helps manage costs through reduced property insurance losses, which helps keep insurance more affordable for everyone.
I’m an avid motorcyclist. My primary ride is a Honda CBR1100XX with more than 100,000 miles on it. I’ve toured all over the U.S. and Canada on my bike. I simply love to ride.
Given a choice of how to get from point A to point B, I’ll almost always choose the motorcycle over a “cage”.
Living in Wisconsin, the winters are especially hard for me. Roads covered in ice and salt are not motorcycle friendly, so my bike sits patiently in the garage, waiting for spring. When that first warm day arrives in March or April, I can’t wait to go out for that first ride of the year.
But before I hit the road, I make sure I’m ready – and that my bike is ready, too.
Some simple checks of the bike are a great way to make sure that first ride is a safe one. The methodology I use is the TCLOCK approach.
- T – Tires and Wheels
- C – Controls
- L – Lights
- O – Oil
- C – Chasis and Chain
- K – Kickstand
You can find a great worksheet for this approach here.
Inspect the tires looking for tread depth and wear. Check tire pressures. They have most likely dropped to unsafe levels over the winter months. While you’re down there, inspect the wheels, too. If you have spokes, look for anything broken, bent or missing. Give the rims a once over, and spin them to ensure the bearings are in good shape.
Check the action of all of the levers, including the clutch and brake levers on the handlebars, as well as the rear brake and gear shifter. Spring is a good time to lubricate any cables and inspect for fraying and kinks.
Lights and battery
Make sure the headlights and turn signals work – front and back. Check the electrolyte level in the battery and make sure it’s fully charged.
Check the engine oil level, and if appropriate, check coolant and gear oil for shaft drive bikes. Check brake and clutch fluid levels. (Note that if your brake fluid is low, it’s a good sign that something is wrong – either your brake pads need replacing or you have a leak.)
Chassis and chain
Clean, lubricate and adjust the chain. If your bike is belt drive, adjust the belt tension. Check the steering head bearings. Inspect the forks for leaks and smooth travel. Give the bike a once over for loose bolts and fasteners.
Make sure the side and center stand springs are in good shape. Then check the side and center stands and ensure they’re lubricated and operate smoothly.
Ready to ride
Spring is a good time to inspect your riding gear. Given the amount of riding I typically do, I’m a big fan of the AGATT approach: All Gear, All The Time.
Give your helmet a once over. Look for signs of wear. Make sure the face shield closes securely and the vents work. If you’ve experienced any “dietary expansion” over the winter, it’s a good idea to make sure your jacket and pants still fit. Boots and gloves should be checked over and replaced if they are worn out.
There’s a good chance sand and leftover salt are on the roads, so take it easy on the corners. And remember, cars haven’t had to worry about motorcycles all winter, so they’re probably not looking for you and won’t see you. Give them a little extra space.
What would you add to my list? Leave a comment. Then enjoy the riding season – no matter where you live.
Editor’s note: Find more motorcycle safety information on the American Family Insurance website, including how you can protect your two-wheeled dreams.
Ours is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.
We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.
Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires.
We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.
Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.
Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.
It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.
Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website.